I’ll have to admit it: I’ve never ordered anything from Zappos, the online shoe business that achieved $1 billion in sales in less than a decade. (Yet.) But I kept hearing about Zappos while following Lance Armstrong and the president of his Livestrong Foundation, Doug Ulman, in social media.
Ulman’s story appears as the forward to my wife Tami Boehmer’s From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds, due out this week. See www.miraclesurvivors.com.
Doug recently appeared on a livestream hosted by Zappos employees. A promo for the stream led me to a website describing the coming launch of Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.
There was an offer for bloggers to review an advance copy of the book, so I put in a request. Luckily, I got a free copy — with instructions to give my honest opinion.
Well… here it is:
I couldn’t put Delivering Happiness down. I devoured the 258 pages in two days.
Hsieh, 36, took me on a compelling journey from his adolescence to Amazon’s 2009 purchase of Zappos for $1.2 billion. By the way, the words were his — not those of a ghost writer.
It was fascinating reading about Hsieh’s businesses of youth — both ununsuccessful (worm farm, magic trick) and successful (buttons with pictures). I loved the story about playing recorded music of himself practicing musical instruments to fool his demanding parents. His tales about setting up a pizza operation on campus and compiling a money-making study guide so he could pass a class at Harvard were delightful. (He was more interested in TV, friends and making money than classes.)
The story about his $40,000 job at Oracle right out of college — work that consisted of showing up at 10, setting up an automated test, e-mailing friends, going to lunch, then checking test results — shattered my image of the software giant. I have to give Hsieh credit for not staying in the boring job, or a website design business he and a buddy started.
He went on to co-found a software company called LinkedExchange that sold to Microsoft in 1999 for $250 million!!! He was only 24.
Easily bored, Hsieh was back in the business world with Zappos, a startup just before the dot.com bust. The ensuing story about the financial twists and turns of Zappos kept me glued to the text. I couldn’t wait to see what adventure awaited on the next page.
The description of Zappos culture and customer-service focus kept me eagerly reading, although it seemed anti-climactic after Hsieh’s portrait of the early days.
I’m glad he shared some of his research about what makes people happy to conclude the book. It made me excited enough to pass on my copy to my boss this morning and another that I was supposed to offer as a give-away to a close friend starting a business.
I highly recommend that you read this book. It offers hope in a time of so much negativity about the economy. It shows how a smart, hard-working individual can use his (or her) creativity to build a business that goes beyond making money. It provides a vision of how an accessible, transparent businesses in this era of social media will succeed.
Today, the hardcover version of “Delivering Happiness” launches in bookstores across the country. Here are some links for you:
Very rarely do people type in a URL any more when accessing information on the Web. Also, it’s becoming less and less common for people to go to a home page to access info. Google takes them directly to the page containing the details they desire. I never dreamt I’d be speaking search terms into a Droid, which would then show me links to text, photos and video on the topic. I don’t even need to type in the terms!
With this revolution has come the practice of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s a way to get your web page, blog post, video clip, podcast and/or photo at the top of the listings when somebody Googles a term or keyword associated with it.
Rob Bunting, “czar” of the Cincinnati I-marketing Group, gave a friendly and informative overview about SEO at the May 24 Cincinnati Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) luncheon. Here is a video clip.
I tweeted from the event. You can check out my Twitter stream from May 24 at @MikeBoehmer57. Here are some tips that Rob shared:
- Think about the terms you are going to target, do keyword research if necessary
- Include search terms you want to come up for in a search engine in your content, especially:
- The page title (the title tag for the web page), keep to less than 72 characters
- The title/headline of press releases, blog posts, videos or other social media
- The META description tag: a 1-2 sentence summary of less than 170 characters
- In the rest of the text of your web page, release, etc.
- Tags field of blog posts, YouTube videos
- The names of pages, URLs (with words separated by dashes)
- ALT tags of images and file names of images (keyword.jpg)
He recommended that you “cross-link your website content, social sites using keywords in those links (“anchor text”) if possible.” Also: “Include links to related external sites, such as publications cited in a press release” and “try to get inbound links to your content–one way to do that is by commenting on other blogs.”
Rob listed these online SEO resources:
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal
Look up search volumes of terms in Google and find similar terms to build your list
- SEObook.com http://tools.seobook.com/
A couple of useful free tools, including Rank Checker
- Pitch Engine http://www.pitchengine.com
Social media press release builder
- Create free business profiles on:
- Google Places http://google.com/places
- Yahoo Local http://listings.local.yahoo.com
- Bing Local https://ssl.bing.com/listings/ListingCenter.aspx
A big thanks to Rob for sharing this great info. Please feel free to share any tips you might have in the comments.